This series is definitely the best thing I read in 2011.
Possibly the best thing I've read in a decade.
I have not been so enamored with either a single book or a series of books since I started reading Harry Potter over 10 years ago. Seriously, I cannot say enough amazing things about these books.When I rated them on my Goodreads account I gave them the following:
Game of Thrones - 5/5 stars
Clash of Kings - 5 stars
Storm of Swords - 5 stars
Feast for Crows - 4 stars
Dance with Dragons - 4 stars
To be completely honest, if I was simply reviewing the series against itself and not against other books, I would say that Game was a 4/5, Clash and Storm were 5/5, and Feast and Dance were 3.5/5...mainly because the first novel of course spends a lot of time setting the stage for this epic saga, while the second and third novels are just purely amazing. The first three books were all published within about two years of each other, starting in 1996, whereas the time period between Storm's publication and that of Feast was 5 years! And another six years passed after that, before Dance was published! Let's just say that I can only hope Martin sticks with his original book-every-two-years schedule for the sixth book in the series, because I don't know what I'll do with myself if I have to wait five or six years for another installment. Thank God I didn't discover these until recently (never thought I'd hear myself say that).
Seriously though...read this series. The books are long, yes, but Martin really does have a way with characters and descriptions that makes the lengths worth it. His creations - both the land of Westeros and the people - have so many dimensions that sometimes it's hard to keep up, but that makes it all the more amazing. Just do yourself a favor - don't make the mistake I did and try to look up something online to clarify, because there are a lot of ASOIAF fans out there and they don't seem to understand the term "spoiler alert".
Oh, and make sure to at least read the first book before you watch season 1 of the HBO show, which yes, is based on the novel and is also pretty freaking amazing.
I wish I felt comfortable giving more info on Martin's writing style and the books themselves, but anything else I would say would possibly give things away and I absolutely do NOT want to do that. I delved into these novels with practically no idea what they were about, other than that they were in the "fantasy" genre - thankfully they are not such crazy fantasy that I couldn't stand it; they're more realistic than one would expect and that is part of their draw. And going in not really knowing anything about them definitely made them that much more amazing. Trust me. So, I've said it a few times and I'll say it again...just read these books, okay? ;)
From Game of Thrones:
"'Can a man still be brave if he's afraid?'
'That is the only time a man can be brave.'"
"'Never forget who you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.'"
"Every flight begins with a fall."
"'If they want to give you a name, take it, make it your own. Then they can't hurt you with it anymore.'"
"'Love is sweet...but it cannot change a man's nature.'"
"'We are only human, and the gods have fashioned us for love. That is our great glory, and our great tragedy.'"
From Clash of Kings:
"'When you tear out a man's tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you're only telling the world that you fear what he might say.'"
"'A hound will die for you, but never lie to you. And he'll look you straight in the face.'"
"'Maester Luwin says there's nothing in dreams that a man need fear.'
'There is,' said Jojen.
'The past. The future. The truth.'"
From Storm of Swords:
"'The greatest fools are ofttimes more clever than the men who laugh at them.'"
"'A knight's a sword with a horse. The rest, the vows and the sacred oils and the lady's favors, they're silk ribbons tied round the sword. Maybe the sword's prettier with ribbons hanging off it, but it will kill you just as dead. Well, bugger your ribbons, and shove your swords up your arses. I'm the same as you. The only difference is, I don't lie about what I am.'"
"'...any man who must say "I am the king" is no true king at all.'"
"'Everyone wants something, Alayne. And when you know what a man wants you know who he is, and how to move him.'"
From Feast for Crows:
"'...history is a wheel, for the nature of man is fundamentally unchanging. What has happened before will perforce happen again.'"
From Dance with Dragons:
"'Men are born to strive and suffer. Our woes only vanish when we die.'"
"'A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,' said Jojen. 'The man who never reads lives only one.'"
"'So long as men remember the wrongs done to their forebears, no peace will ever last.'"